Richard Mille and Ferrari launch RM UP-01, world's thinnest watch

The RM UP-01 is 1.75mm thick, 0.05mm thinner than the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Ultra, which claimed the title in March. PHOTO: RICHARD MILLE
Richard Mille was determined not to make a concept watch, but one which could be worn by their customers every day. PHOTO: RICHARD MILLE
The time and function selectors are spread out over the surface area of the watch. PHOTO: RICHARD MILLE

MARANELLO, ITALY - It is their first child and already a record beater.

On Tuesday (July 5), luxury watchmaker Richard Mille and Italian sports car manufacturer Ferrari - which became partners last year - announced the arrival of the RM UP-01, the world's thinnest watch.

Measuring just 1.75mm thick, it trumps the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Ultra - which claimed the title only in March this year - by 0.05mm.

Unveiled in the Italian town of Maranello - home of the Prancing Horse - to a select group of international journalists and VIP clients, the timepiece - limited to 150 pieces - is the result of more than 6,000 hours of development and laboratory testing.

The technical and design team at Richard Mille (RM) came up with more than 50 prototypes - a normal watch usually requires no more than 10 - before they settled on the final razor-thin marvel which boasts 210 components.

They were also determined not to make a concept watch, but one which could withstand the rigours of daily living and be worn by their customers every day.

Developed with the laboratories of Audemars Piguet Le Locle, the manually wound movement - which is just 1.18mm thick - is startlingly unique for several reasons, chief of which is the fact that it is assembled within the case.

In contrast, watchmakers like Bvlgari and Piaget - holders of previous ultra-thin records - make the caseback do double duty as a baseplate.

Since stacking or having a case comprising several parts is out of the question with the RM UP-01, the hours, minutes, seconds and function selector - stringently tested to make sure they can withstand accelerations of more than 5,000 g - are instead spread out over the surface area of the rounded rectangular case measuring 59mm by 31mm.

Mr Julien Boillat, RM's technical director for cases, says in a briefing: "Everything we did at Richard Mille was thrown out the window to make this watch."

To achieve maximum flatness without compromising strength, the baseplate and the skeletonised bridges are fashioned out of Grade 5 titanium.

The timepiece has two patents: an ultra flat escapement with a variable-inertia balance and an extra flat barrel fitted with a super fine hairspring.

The time indicators (with hands directly affixed to the wheels) and the regulator (showcasing the balance wheel-spring assembly) are covered with sapphire crystal, the thickness of which has to be reduced to two tenths of a millimetre. As extreme precision is demanded, the cases will be machined in-house at RM's movement department.

Despite its thinness, the movement - which weighs just 2.87g - has a power reserve of 45 hours and is water resistant to 10m.

All this technical wizardry does not come cheap. The RM UP-01 costs a whopping 1.7 million Swiss francs (S$2.5 million).

It is, however, not the brand's most expensive watch. American rapper Jay-Z, for instance, has been spotted wearing RM sapphire tourbillons which cost more than US$3 million (S$4.2 million).

Mr Tim Malachard, RM's marketing director, says the RM UP-01's price reflects the research, resources and manpower poured into the watch which is "bigger than anything we've done before".

He is more than confident that the watches will sell and says the collaboration already has many RM as well as Ferrari clients excited.

RM and Ferarri, he adds, make good bedfellows because both are independent brands which have a lot in common including exclusivity, craftmanship and a reputation for pushing the envelope.

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The launch on Tuesday night was a glitzy affair which took place at a specially constructed venue next to The Fiorano Circuit, Ferrari's private racetrack used for development and testing purposes.

Guests feasted on a four-course dinner - with dishes including a Parmigiano Reggiano Flan with roasted onion and balsamic vinegar, and Beef Fillet Testarossa with potato cream, red turnip and Campari - prepared by Italian restaurateur and chef Massimo Bottura, the man behind Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Modena, Italy.

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